While high-tech weapons items get a lot of billing, the Global War on Terror is very much an infantry war. Firepower overmatch matters in those situations, which explains the corresponding popularity of 40mm grenade systems on the modern battlefield. Enter, then, the US Marine Corps’ M-32 six-shot 40mm grenade launcher.
During an annual symposium several years ago, Marine gunners decided that they needed an option that was more powerful than the ubiquitous M203 one-shot launchers that mount under their M4 or M16 rifles. The M-32 won out as an experimental weapon for each marine battalion – and now a variant appears to have won a larger formal competition.
Fresh off of a small contract to provide its EL/M-2112 ground tracking radars to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan, IAI ELTA recently announced a $50 million export contract for the radar component of Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket/artillery defense system. That system competes with laser-based alternatives like SkyGuard, and shorter-range options like the Phalanx Centurion, as a protective option against shells and rockets with ranges of 4-70 km. Constant artillery barrages of such projectiles, aimed at Israeli towns and cities, was one of the main triggers of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Looking like a robotic mule, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will carry 400 pounds of equipment for US soldiers and Marines over rugged terrain inaccessible by vehicle – terrain like the mountains of Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, US soldiers and Marines can carry 50 pounds of equipment, and in some cases over 100 pounds, for long distances over difficult terrain. According to DARPA’s plan, the LS3 will be capable to carry 400 pounds of payload for 20 miles in 24 hours.
And the good news is that system can take care of itself. LS3 will be fully autonomous, able to perceive the terrain and adjust its movements accordingly. Fully loaded, the LS3 will weigh no more than 1,250 pounds.
To get the program off the ground, so to speak, DARPA recently awarded a $32 million, 30-month contract [pdf] to Boston Dynamics of Waltham, MA to develop LS3 prototypes.
As part of Taiwan’s much-reported military modernization program, it’s ordering 12 P-3C Orion sea control aircraft to monitor its sea lanes, hunt enemy submarines, and make life dangerous for any ships in an invasion force. While Lockheed Martin was forced to re-open a wing line in Georgia, the main production line isn’t active any more. As a result, all 12 of the mothballed P-3s slated for Taiwan have to come from stored US Navy aircraft at AMARG’s “boneyard” near Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ. The problem is that all 12 airframes were labeled “non-flyable” due to structural fatigue, which made the 2,000 mile trip to the refurbishment facility in Greenville, SC, a bit of a challenge.
After considering and rejecting rail transport due to offloading and re-loading risks, the AMARG team decided to use a flatbed truck. That’s an unusual method, but it worked. Their approach has stirred interest from other P-3 operators, and even US federal government agencies…
Flying around in the deserts of the Middle East, where the daytime temperature can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit, can take its toll on military aircraft’s electronics.
That is one of the reasons why the US Navy launched the Land-based Air Conditioner (LBAC) program, which is developing next-generation equipment to cool the electronics onboard US Navy and US Marine Corps aircraft when they return to base.